There is something paradoxical about Christmas. What do I mean? We can look forward to it but we can dread it at the same time. It is a great time for families to come together and reconnect, celebrate and show their love for one another. Yet, it is a time when many people experience family tensions, anxieties and sometimes even violence. It is a time when we buy presents and express our love and affection for those around us. Yet, it can put people under financial stress too. So, indeed Christmas is a paradox.
Despite the paradox, for Christians, Christmas holds before us a new and hope-filled future. The effort, and sometimes struggle, to make Christmas ‘work’ for our families and for our communities, represents the task that is before us at all times. We gather to share a meal. On this day we want a place at the table for everyone. We don’t want family or friends to miss out. This is a day when we want everyone to feel that they belong, that we can put aside differences and tensions and sit around the table together. In this sense Christmas is symbolic of our hopes and dreams for a world where everyone can indeed sit side by side in peace.
That is why there will be sadness when border restrictions and pandemic politics will keep people separated at Christmas. That is why so many people reach out to the homeless and lonely on Christmas Day. We do our best to connect with both our loved ones and the vulnerable in whatever way we can.
We will exchange gifts. And despite the temptation for our culture to over-commercialise Christmas-gift-giving, there is also something sacramental about giving and receiving a gift. Preparing a gift or writing a card to someone tells them that you are thinking about them, it creates a sense of solidarity and connection among us. It lets us know that our human dignity is worth celebrating and that other people are worth rejoicing in and showering with good things.
For Christians, what we do at Christmas, is symbolic of what God is doing for the whole of creation as God’s dream for the world unfolds. God is the one who gathers us around the one table. God is the one who showers us with blessings. Remember Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat: God raises up the lowly, fills the starving with good things, remembers God’s mercy and comes to our help.
Christmas might be a paradox but it is also a day when we can glimpse a vision of what the world could be like and to experience something of the dream of God for all of humanity.
Christmas blessings to you from me and our Parish Team.
Fr Brendan Reed